December 28, 2015
  •  By: Allie Marconi

3 Craft Cocktails to Shake this Holiday Season

Graduate from serving traditional holiday punch or mulled brandy this New Years Eve, and inspire guests and family to discover their inner mixologist with an interactive cocktail making station.

It’s as simple as simple syrup, really – all you’ll have to do is set your guests up for success!

First –establish a headcount. This will help you understand how much cocktail mix to prepare ahead of time. On average guests will have two house cocktails –it’s smart to have supplemental wine and beer too for non-cocktail drinkers. If you have 10 guests, you will want enough mix to have for 20-25 cocktails.

Next – determine glassware. There are three cocktail recipes below that each require a rocks or bucket glass and are all served on the rocks. Each cocktail ranges from 3½ to 4 ounces total. Glassware usually holds anywhere from 6 – 8 ounces.  Those extra 2-3 ounces will get supplemented once the mix is shaken with ice and then poured over fresh ice.

Finally – gather your ingredients, bar tools, and set up the station. For the cocktail making station, guests will need the following tools to create their drinks:

  • 2, Shaker Tins
  • 2, Strainers
  • 2, 2 ounce Jigger
  • 1, large ice bucket with scooper – and LOTS of ice.
  • Carafe, mason jar, or pitcher to hold pre-mixed cocktail
  • Glassware
  • Mason jar or small shallow bowl to hold garnish
  • Small chalkboard easel or print with cocktail name, ingredients & directions – so people know what they are making and how to make it.
  • Optional: cutting board for guests to prepare drinks on; cocktail napkins; mini chalkboard with cocktail history – for fun talking points; small notecards detailing each tool, i.e. “shaker tin”, “2 oz Jigger”, etc…

I would suggest setting up an area with enough space for two people to make cocktails at a time as well as in a different area from the beer, wine and n/a beverage station. The mini chalkboard easel will be key for guests to understand quickly and simply how to proceed.

Here’s an example:

“Green Apple Crusta”

Green Apple Brandy, Cointreau, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup

Pick a cinnamon-sugar rimmed glass, add ice, and tuck apple slice down the side of the glass. Measure 4 oz. of cocktail mix with the jigger and add to shaker tin with ice. Close shaker tin with top half and shake hard for 10 seconds. Remove top, place strainer over shaker, and pour into glass – cheers & enjoy!

Since guests will be mixing up their own drinks at the bar, you won’t be bogged down making drinks for everyone all night – instead, you will want to keep an eye on the station, replenishing glassware, garnish, ice, and cocktail mix as the night rolls on.

Keep in mind that if a cocktail calls for a rim or “crust” like the Green Apple Crusta does – prep those glasses ahead of time. Same suggestion applies to garnishes. Have one apple at a time pre-sliced for the Crusta and for the Scotch Monroy, prep the grilled rosemary sprigs ahead of time. This way, all guests will have to do is pour, shake, and pour some more.

None of the cocktails below call for sparkling wine or champagne, but if you go with one that does – do NOT include any effervescent beverage – like club soda too – when you pre-mix. Instead, have that ingredient sitting on ice with a stopper in it at the cocktail station and direct guests to top their cocktail with the ingredient.

Green Apple Crusta

The Green Apple Crusta is a modern take on the traditional brandy crusta, originally created in the 1850’s, that infuses brandy with green apple for 48 hours, lending it a fruity and sharp bite that’s rounded off by a cinnamon sugar rim with a thinly sliced apple peel wrapped around the interior of the glass. The Cointreau found in this cocktail can makes an excellent digestif or aperitif, making this perfect for an after dinner activity.

1 slice apple round

.75 oz organic lemon juice

.5 oz simple syrup

.5 oz Cointreau

1.5 oz Green Apple Brandy **

Cinnamon Sugar for rim

To make Green Apple Brandy: slice 300 grams of green apple with skin on. Add 1L of brandy to jar with apple slices. Rest in cool place for 48 hours. Make 3-4 days before hand.

To prep glasses: moisten glass rim with some apple juice or water. Dip edge of glass into cinnamon sugar to create rim.

To make pre-mix: add lemon juice, simple syrup, Cointreau and green apple brandy together and stir. The recipe above is for one cocktail, so simply multiply ingredients by as many guests there will be. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve. Fresh lemon juice has a 2-3 day lifespan, so I would suggest making the pre-mix the morning of the party or at the max 24 hours ahead of serving time.

To prep garnishes: mix equal parts cinnamon and sugar. Set aside. Slice one apple at a time for garnishes. About ¼ of inch thick slices, or thinner.

Guests will: add ice and apple slice to cinnamon-sugar rimmed glass. Add pre-mix with ice to shaker, shake and strain into glass.



Spiced Cranberry Sidecar

The spices in the mulled brandy bring forth the seasonal yet tart edge from fresh cranberries and lemon juice, the Spiced Cranberry Sidecar is a great holiday spin on the classic Sidecar cocktail.  Cranberries are a versatile fruit and their benefits make them useful in holiday drinks. The Phytonutrients, which are naturally derived plant compounds, are present in cranberries and have been found to prevent a wide range of health problems.

.5 oz organic lemon juice

.75 oz simple syrup

1.5 oz organic cranberry juice

1.5 oz mulled brandy**

Lemon wheels

Dried sugar free cranberries

To make mulled brandy: Pour 1.75 L of light-bodied red into jar, infuse 90g of mulling spices and agitate every 30 minutes for 12 hours. Make 2-3 days ahead of time and keep chilled.

To make premix: add lemon juice, simple syrup, cranberry juice and mulled brandy together and stir. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve.

To prep garnishes: cut lemon wheels. Set aside. Pour dried cranberries into a small bowl. Set aside.

Guests will: add ice to glass. Measure 4 oz. of premix with jigger, add to shaker with ice and shake hard for 10 seconds. Strain into glass. Place lemon wheel on top with 2 dried cranberries sitting on it.

Spiced Cranberry Sidecar

Scotch Monray

A simple combination of scotch, amaro, lemon, and honey create this approachable yet intriguing drink meant for the novice and complex cocktail lovers alike. While the scotch misted and grilled rosemary sprig garnish bring the flavors full circle. The brilliant smell of rosemary is often associated with good food and great times. But it could just as easily be associated with good health. Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system, increasing circulation, and improving digestion.

1 sprig Rosemary

.5 oz organic lemon juice

.75 oz honey syrup**

.75 oz Amaro Nonino

1.5 oz Johnnie Walker ‘Rye Cask’

To make honey syrup: incorporate 12 oz. honey to 6 oz. water. Double those figures if you need more. Stir until well-mixed.

To make pre-mix: add lemon juice, honey syrup, Amaro Nonino, and Johnnie Walker ‘Rye Cask’ together and stir. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

To prep garnish: pre-heat grill to medium-high heat. Add sprigs to grill for 20 seconds or until a slight char forms. Set aside in jar or glass with moisten paper towel draped over the top.

Guests will: add ice to glass. Measure 4 oz. of premix with jigger, add to shaker with ice and shake hard for 10 seconds. Strain into glass. Top with grilled rosemary sprig.


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